I am pretty new to nature journals. I have spent countless hours outdoors and saved all of my school work from my undergraduate degree but I have never “journal-ed” about the outdoors. My son is in school so I haven’t really wanted to add more “work” to his week but I thought it would be a fun activity for this summer. Not only will be be learning through exploring the outdoors and nature as a family but we will be preserving our memories and practicing hand writing skills and such.
If you are new to nature journals, I have more resources that can answer your questions at the bottom of this post. Here are a few ideas for entries for your nature journals.
- Tree ID for Preschoolers – This is an easy activity that introduces kids to the two basic types of trees and the different shapes of leaves.
- Maps – I found this article a while ago that talks about the benefits of teaching kids spatial skills. One great way to do this is to have kids draw maps. So on your next outing have your kids draw a map of the trail or park. Label landmarks, fun plants or where you saw animals. Green Acorns has a few other very creative map activities for your nature journals.
- Leaf Drawings – This activity can be done in the field or at home and is a another way to introduce your kids to more leaf shapes.
- Color Matching – My original idea was to just to draw circles of color and have the kids find natural materials that match each color. But one of my readers mentioned they do the same thing just using a rainbow. Brilliant! Just stick a piece of double sided tape over each color to stick materials to or print the pages on card-stock and cut SMALL slits so kids can stick flowers, leaves, etc. into the slit. See Tree ID Post for pictures of this process.
- Graphing – Have your child find a comfortable place to sit in your backyard for 5-10 minutes (depending on the age of the child) and color in the boxes according to the number of critters or things they see. If the child is older you may want to have them place 10 dots in each box because they will mostly like see a lot more than younger kids and could run out of boxes. Then discuss your finding with your kids, compare and contrast the differences, etc. If you have questions about what you see, ask a naturalist as your local nature center.
- Take pictures, decorate & journal – Let the kids have a camera and encourage them to take as many pictures as they want. Sort through and choose a few favorites to print at home. Make a collage and decorate with natural materials collected on the outing or let older kids write what they experienced. I generally add a picture of my child with the camera to the top. To save money and time I created the collage in Powerpoint and printed it out on regular paper. I did let me kids decorate it afterward. I then pressed it to preserve the flowers and leaves.
Tips for Nature Journals
- Rythums of Play has a great post that gives an introduction to the basics of nature journals. She covers a lot and offers a number of free resources.
- I prefer using a 3-ring binder for journals in general. That way I can add pages as needed, use plastic sheet protectors for delicate items and I don’t have to take the entire journal on our adventures, just the page I need. Here is a cover for a nature journal binder I created.
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- Preserving the memories! Don’t forget to press the pages with leaves and flowers. This can be as simple as placing pages between the pages of a magazine and piling heavy books on top. I generally leave them for a week or two. The leaves and flowers will last much longer if they are dried and pressed.
- DON’T FORGET TO ADD THE DATE. It would be a shame to forget when it happened.